Theresa Vaughn, the Buckbee banjo, her Transformation of theater
YouTube Video Ivan Caryll's Cancan from the "Little Christopher Columbus" show 1893 Act 1 finale. Credits below.

                  The Theresa Vaughn Project

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Theresa Vaughn 1882                Theresa Vaughn ~1892                 Leonard Schneider 2020                      1880 Buckbee replica #4 gold-plated. Built 2020

Theresa Vaughn is a Muse for a needed renaissance!
For full story please explore the following 15 pages and videos.

Bottom line: America and much of the world needs a renaissance of healing, joy, beauty and optimism.
People rarely imagine a renaissance; exactly how we get there; what might it be like ?
So first let's find a Muse and a good decade or two for inspiration.
There's evidence that almost everything since 1900 is messed up, ... everything: politics, culture, food, sexuality, music, attitudes, education, philosophy, fashion ..etc. Everything.
That said, here's my concept/recipe/gold standard for a beautiful, sweet world:    It's the 1890's.
Enjoy the "Little Christopher" video on the opening screen.
It shows the joy and optimism of those very golden days.

It seems the two MAIN cultural events of the 1890's were:
1 Theresa Vaughn and her America
2 The Cancan and the Belle Époque in France

Happily Theresa connected these two worlds together. Exposure to these lost cultural gems could be beneficial. In this introduction are some videos show the scope and broad nature of Cancan ( no pun intended :) There are many aspects to Cancan: Historical, Cultural, Folksy, Celebratory, Theatrical, Feminism, Male-ism etc.

Some Cancan examples... all different:
My short 19th Century Cancan video. The Gold key to open the door a sweet "new normal... a needed renaissance. Click here
Good colorful cancan. Click here
Various women types, ages and venues. Click here
A recent show: Note the nice reviews on screen. Click here
Wonderful and deep 1891 newspaper Cancan article, zoomable for easier reading. Click here
David Price. Click here A history of the cancan. It appears that the raised skirts were a later addition, specifically connected with the fashion for frilly underwear in the 1890s.
Amazing energetic, athletic cancan. Click here
Colorful Green and pink skirts. Click here
Cute + playful Cancan. Click here
Cancan dance step names. Click here
Cancan, wholesome family festivals.
Click here
Click here
Performance inspired by Offenbach. "Orpheus in the Underworld" Click here
Cancan with Mozart's music? Click here
Day in life Moulin Rouge dancer. Click here
Cute Cancan duo. Click here

Cancan would be a wonderful seminar subject. Much to discuss. I believe Cancan is healthier / better than the 20th and 21st century sexuality perspective of Hollywood.

This website's like a "Cultural Stimulus" package to help inspire a needed renaissance. Below hopefully I convey the "Zeitgeist" of those magical years, 1881-1896. You will learn about that "Belle Époque", the "Golden Era" and Theresa Vaughn's contributions to it all. Theresa transformed and elevated our music and culture on Broadway in the 1890s, She steered us away from the minstrel show style and gave us a romantic, poetic, uplifting positive music. She took the banjo to Broadway and musically opened the door to the shows of Rogers and Hammerstein II that would soon follow her. Theresa was a very charitable person. I believe her artistic influence helped re-connect the North and South after the Civil war. A cultural healer. You may find her a wonderful role model/muse emulate, grow and learn from. I did. Theresa also introduced the Cancan to America on Broadway in 1893... a well-loved art form and perhaps a very great world unifier. It's extremely sexy, yet G-rated. I do believe the world could really benefit from much more Cancan. See Cancan links on page 1 and others below. For a renaissance we need to find very wonderful role models of all kinds. They are mostly to be found in our golden age. E.g. Nicola Tesla, Samuel Clemens, Annie Oakley and Theresa Vaughn to mention a few.


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                    Welcome to 1880-1896 our Golden age.

Thank you for visiting and learning about my discovery of Theresa Ott Vaughn (1863-1903) and the Buckbee banjo. I published 5 books about Theresa, her music and the Buckbee type banjo she accompanied herself with. Theresa transformed theater and culture. She evolved us from the Minstrel show era and put us on the road to Rodgers and Hammerstein II. Troubadours of the middle ages popularized Love, Romanticism and Poetry. I believe William Shakespeare, Theresa Vaughn and Rogers & Hammerstein II are our most wonderful troubadours. We sorely need a renaissance of Love and Romance .... more such dream weavers.

Since 2014 I've researched Miss Theresa Ott Vaughn & the Buckbee banjo she played. The Buckbee added sparkle to her unequaled contralto singing. This study became THE key that opened my awareness and appreciation of that era. It was America's "Belle Époque" Hopefully people & cultures everywhere will benefit as I did from this awareness.
- Leonard Schneider

If you have questions or would like to discuss this project please email:

This little clipping from 115 yrs. ago (1903) says much.
(Louis Armstrong is the only other musician I can think of who "scattered much sunshine in the world")      


Library of Congress: Western Kansas World.,(WaKeeney, Kansas 1885 to current). From October 31, 1903

Hopefully my shows continue Theresa's work : Scattering much sunshine in the world.

Click here to learn more about the books and banjos Len is selling.
Click here Len talks here about the design and cultural significance of the 1880 Buckbee banjo,.. He calls it our "Golden Age" banjo.
Click here To view all the YouTube videos posted by Len.
Click here to learn about new French connection to this project.


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August 18, 2018 The Autumn issue of B.M.G. ( Banjo Mandolin Guitar ) magazine from England will publish my article in mid-October about this project. B.M.G is the oldest musical instrument periodical in the world. They have continued to publish ever since 1903 except for a short period.
B.M.G. has titled it:   "Theresa Vaughn - a Muse for a Renaissance"
Sept 28, 2018 Worldwide individual or group webinars now available. Webinar and live presentations can cover
all aspects of this project. They are interactive classes, workshops & lessons. Webinars can set up for individuals or groups.Bavarian.

March 1, 2019 Miss Stefanie Hoefgen presents a good snapshot of a golden time, our Belle Époque, as she reads from my book
"Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo".

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There is a very interesting synchronicity here... Stefanie is a performer herself and she is Bavarian, as was the father of Theresa Vaughn.
Audio of Stefanie introducing "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" Click here
Stefanie's website Click here


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Lab Workshop Section

April 24:   I was thinking about the 1896 Lithograph image on page 6. It was used on the cover of my book "Little Christopher" and was used as a poster for the show. Theresa Vaughn starred in this major Broadway show. The book contains a photocopy of the full, original show script with handwritten stage notes. The costumes and scenery were said to be exceptionally beautiful. Depicted is the French Cancan dance. The cancan's roots go back to the 1830s. Over the years it gained worldwide popularity. By 1890 it was highly perfected and spectacular. The history surrounding Cancan is VERY colorful. See the links below. The iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. In this complex show, Theresa plays young Christopher Columbus when he was a cabin boy. In the show, the cabin boy was supposed to be Columbus's descendant. A situation develops requiring Theresa (as young Christopher) to disguise for a needed escape. Theresa ( as young Christopher) borrows clothes from girlfriend Pepita. While disguised as a girl she/he sings:



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     "I'll dance you a dance when you're out at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree!
     She danced it once to amuse the crew
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!"
     The only dance I learned at sea,
     A lady taught me from gay Paree
     l 'Twas a dance to make you stare,
     with a liberal show of underwear.
     For above her head she raised her toe,
     And the Captain ordered his wife below,
     She danced it once to amuse the crew,
     And I fancy her name was Grille d' Egout!

* A Little adventure back to gay Paree inspired by Theresa Vaughn's 1888 visit to Paris. Music by Ivan Caryll from the
      "Little Christopher Columbus Show"(1893-1896).
      Click here

* Hopefully this video shows how and when the American & French Belle Époque connected. t may have been the
      very best of times (or as good as it gets :). Using Theresa Vaughn's favorite instrument (1880 Buckbee banjo ),
     Offenbach's 1858 cancan and Cancan dance helps to show this connection. Theresa
     visited Paris in 1888 and later starred in the "Little Christopher Columbus show" (1896)
     There she introduced cancan to America. More information is on this website
     pages 5-8. Next video planned will use Ivan Caryll's cancan music instead of Offenbach's1858 cancan.
      It is very sweet, sentimental, romantic and poetic music.
      Click here

* A beautiful but heart breaking biography of the most wonderful 1890's Moulin Rouge dancer: Mlle.Jane Avril.
     Click here

* From Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad" about his trip to Gay Paree in 1867. This was 22 years before the Moulin Rouge was but
     very close by in distance. At tab "8:23" on video counter He mentions Jardins D'Asnieres
     Cabaret Garden and his first exposure / reaction to the cancan. Very droll.
     Click here

*** Many thanks to the late Mr. Colin M. Johnson for his very fine, monumental work. He converted the wonderful music
     score (200 pages) from the "Little Christopher Columbus" show (1893-1896 ) by Ivan Caryll (1861-1921) to midi files.I then
     converted his midi files to mp3 format and then synchronized the music to the spoken scriptand prompt notes that, I had converted
     to mp3 audio. See video 1 below. It's a summary of the wonderful 1890's.

     Click here 1. "Little Christopher" show. Full script and stage notes recited with wonderful music of the show in background (1hr 30min)

     Click here 2. Two wonderful 1896 Newspaper articles about the show


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In my lab, I enjoy exploring how the 1880 banjo was used both at home and on the Broadway stage by Theresa. This section is NOT meant to be a parking space for polished video performances. I like to share my experiments here to help show how others how to enjoy this kind of adventure and exploration. ie to have fun. It's an easy way to travel in time & place. I'm very interested to explore how Theresa transformed theater and helped usher in the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II, that followed her. Lately, I have been "connecting more dots" to better understand all this. I believe it's beneficial to be aware of culture and life in Paris, French in the 1880s and '90s. Broadway and Paris culturally were both in a wonderful golden age at that time. I believe that moment in time is a great role model for western civilization to emulate and learn from today. Theresa Vaughn ( 1863-1903 ) was America's most prominent performer. In Paris, the cultural and artistic leading edge was Louise Weber (La Goulue), an early developer of the French Cancan dance, Jane Avril perfected the Cancan and painter Toulouse-Lautrec (1838-1913) who wonderfully captured that Golden age. The Moulin Rouge cabaret was built in 1889. Meanwhile, Theresa Vaughn was brightly lighting up Broadway with her sparkle and magic. Just after Theresa's era, Broadway became electrified..... to become the "Great White Way"... thanks to Nikola Tesla!

* Louise Weber (1866-1929) Gallery Click here

* Jane Avril ( 1868-1943) Gallery Click here

* Video 1st test applying the Buckbee to the Cancan. Great fun to play it. Perhaps very alive Cancan dancers can
     become part of a musical movie or show about Theresa!
Click here

* 1891 Very wonderful full page newspaper story about the Moulin Rouge Cancan scene. Enlarge it, scroll around and
Click here

* Very beautiful cancan dance collage video. Note especially the wonderful outdoor scenes Click here

* Folksy, "girls next door" cancan outside a small cafe in Amsterdam Click here

You can check in here and hopefully see progress as I explore banjo adaption to these songs below. I will update when possible.
The purpose here is to show progress as it happens. This is a "work in progress" lab/place . Perfection hopefully comes later :)
It would be wonderful if others will join these experiments.

... Earlier experiments

Test video showing my 4D concept ( More on 4D below ).
Rogers and Hammerstein II's, "Driving through the moonlight on a highway"
Laura Osnes (2013) and the Buckbee banjo. How Theresa might have played it. Click here

My 1st video showing Theresa's transformation .. from early Appalachian & Civil war
     music to the road leading to Rogers & Hammerstein II's Broadway. 12 Min. Click here


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... Current explorations, now in development

1. "People will say we're in Love", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     My newest experiment/discovery.. now in development. This is a rough 2nd draft to show my 4D concept.
     Hopefully more finished/polished versions will post as I work it out more. This eventually can evolve to a more
     jazzy and or blue-grassy thing. Click here

2. "The Belle of Poverty Flats", 1896. A sensitive song from Theresa's show honoring Winnie Horn,
     a very pretty poor working girl selling newspapers on a NYC street corner. Click here

3. "My Little Sunday Girl" (with lyrics), 1896 Theresa sang this comic song. Click here

4. "Little Wooden shoes", 1893. Theresa sang this to raise money for the World Bread Fund
     to feed the poor in NYC. Click here

5. "Impossible" from Rogers and Hammerstein II's Cinderella. Sounds nice Theresa style on Buckbee. Click here

6. "Love Sweet Love", 1894. A very romantic song written for and sang by Theresa. Click here

7. "Surry with the Fringe on Top", 1943. Oklahoma Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

8. "A Lovely Night", 1957. Cinderella Rodgers & Hammerstein II.
     Sounds good Theresa Style on Buckbee. Click here

The above songs can all serve well to demonstrate the 4D genre I speak of. It's interesting
to jam with its ( key of B ) especially if using a Buckbee type banjo. You can soon get
the idea that something new is happening. By connecting Rogers & Hammerstein II's music
to its 19th ancestry banjo roots one can strongly sense the connection/entanglement between
them. At the same time the banjo itself can fly to new places by this 4D inter-connection
process I believe. Somehow it can bring out various new banjo styles including and going beyond
frailing & bluegrass. A new jazzy and classical effect can happen. I'm still working on these songs
Hopefully I'll post video of all when I have it figured out.


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Theresa's images from 1882 to 1895

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     Theresa's world

.Syracuse NY mid 19th century
Syracuse NY mid 19th century
.Union Square-Broadway, 1892
Union Square - Broadway, 1892

Mark Twain's quote:

"The piano may do for love-sick girls who lace themselves to skeletons, and lunch on chalk, pickles and slate pencils. But give me the banjo. Gottschalk compared to Sam Pride or Charley Rhoades, is as a Dashaway cocktail to a hot whiskey punch. When you want genuine music -- music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pin-feather pimples on a picked goose, -- when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo!" Mark Twain - "Enthusiastic Eloquence," San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, 23 June 1865

Project Summary: Hopefully, this project, website, and shows, will help inspire a much needed Renaissance. My information sources ( the Library of Congress & other)  are credited in my books. From 1882 to 1897 the Library of Congress has 673 newspaper articles from across America about Theresa. I was able to gain additional information as a result of discussions with Matthew Nelson Ott Jr.(82). Matthew Ott's grandfather, Philip Anthony Ott, was one of Theresa's brothers. Another brother, Michael Matthew Ott, left a handwritten-rough typed collection of "notes, musings, references and dreams of the Ott family and its connection to the world of music". Michael Ott confirmed and helped to sharply focus my understanding of Theresa transformed theater. I gained much understanding from the 1880 Buckbee banjo. I work to discover how she played her songs. It seems likely that she incorporated both Appalachian frailing and a classical guitar style/approach. Theresa was born in NYC in 1863 (approx.). Her father was an immigrant from Bavaria. At 12, She sang in her Catholic church. Theresa was the oldest child and had 12 younger brothers. As a young teenager, Theresa joined a coast to coast traveling show run by William Ayres Mestayer in 1882. They married several years later. Theresa became the star in these shows in a few months. In 1888 she visited Germany with her husband W.A.Mestayer. Later in 1888, she bought a beautiful hilltop ocean view mansion, in Red Bank NJ. Theresa was very charitable and well-loved everywhere. I believe She opened the way to Rogers and Hammerstein II's music (R&H). In 1895 Oscar Hammerstein II was born in NYC just when Theresa was the brightest star on Broadway. In her earlier performances, Theresa played minstrel and Appalachian music very well. She was very good at singing doggerel and could make it sound believable/real. Soon her performances grew more artistic and magical. She was very romantic, poetic & dreamy. Theresa could be very funny... funny beyond description it was said. She was once described as "The Apotheosis of Girl". In the early 1890's Theresa became the major Broadway star. She studied in Dresden, Germany and could sing opera in French Italian and German. Theresa was also a ballerina. I believe she was the archetype of the Rogers and Hammerstein II Broadway music that was to come next generation... Her generation was very special. Some of Theresa's contemporaries were: Nikola Tesla, Annie Oakley, Uncle Dave Macon, Thomas Edison, Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain), Jesse James and Billy the Kid. Abraham Lincoln was the president when Theresa born.

No Recordings: It was announced in 1896 that Theresa would soon be recorded on wax cylinder recordings... but unfortunately, I believe she passed away before that happened. Newspaper and periodical research helped to learn about Theresa but building and playing Buckbee banjos and learning her music was extremely helpful to the process of discovering Theresa better.


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Buckbee banjos:

John H.Buckbee (NYC) built drums during the Civil war. He started building banjos in 1867. He was the most prolific banjo builder from 1867 to 1897. It was said Henry C. Dobson and other builders at times bought Buckbee's and re-labeled them. Buckbee banjos were very popular. I'm now exactly replicating silver-plated and gold-plated 1880 Buckbee banjos. These replicas sound, play & feel exactly my original 1880 Buckbee both discovered hibernating for 115 years, nearby, in a Gardiner, Maine attic. The magical Buckbee tone was due to its rim design. They were made by steaming and bending a solid, 0.263 maple board to become an 11" diameter rim (single-ply). The maple rims are very tightly encased in a 0.025 brass sheath. Theresa used such a banjo to accompany her singing. After 1900, banjo builders (Fairbanks, Gibson, etc.) increasingly began using laminated (plywood) rims. Steam bending was too tricky for mass production as we began the 20th century. These days banjos all have plywood rims even the most expensive ones. Endless metal internal tone rings were designed to improve the poor tone of the plywood rims... they gained back the lost volume but lost the magical ring of the bentwood Buckbee. These replicas are wonderful to play. They sound just like my original 1880. You can hear the 1880 Buckbee .. original and replica on videos below. They are very responsive and they; tell you the best way to do this or that.

Project Background: In 1976 I organized and performed in an East coast touring Bicentennial show about the banjo and its cultural connection with American music. The tour was sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service. My research has continued since 1976. Every so often I uncovered interesting, valuable information. Then 10 yrs. ago, while researching for a presentation I made a monumental discovery: Theresa Ott / Vaughn ~1863 -1903 (Vaughn was her stage name). Theresa was our most admired and loved performer (across America, on Broadway, and in England too). As I discovered more about Theresa and her performances I came to realize that she was very special and transformational force musically and culturally. I'm very amazed that Theresa is now totally unknown and forgotten. I believe she is/was the missing link between our mid-19th-century music (minstrel, Appalachian, burlesque ) and the emergence of Rogers & Hammerstein IIs music. I'm now very focused on Theresa, Buckbee banjo and the connection to Rogers & Hammerstein II. Hopefully, this project will inspire a very needed cultural Renaissance. These 1880 Buckbee's were built before electric power. John Buckbee's shop likely ran on steam power. My goal is to convey the full essence and value of all the above. Music and sound here are vital ie .better than words and pictures alone. To that end, I've made (and continue to make) videos showing more of Theresa's songs and how she might have been playing them on banjo. There are many variations in her songs, so I believe she likely had to use different playing styles to connect them with the banjo. I work to learn how she may have done this. I'm sure she used a mix of frailing and a classical guitar like style ie. whatever worked. Exploring my videos can be beneficial. Of course, as new songs are explored more understanding will hopefully happen. Hopefully, more videos with very fine singers will be posted here in October.


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Introductory slideshow for perspective on this project. Video's and shows to come will show how Theresa Vaughn transformed theater. She evolved our Appalachian, minstrel and troubadour music. I believe her influence lead to the music of Rogers and Hammerstein II. The background music on this slideshow is "Love Sweet Love"(1893). It was written for and performed by Theresa. This song was a big evolution from our earlier music. It is very Chopin like. Lyrics by Shorn Cliff, music by Herman Perlet. This video lets you peek into our golden era. Click here

  • "Sweet Alice Ben Bolt" (1848). Lorna Jane Murray's contemporary version (key of G).
    Could be close to how Theresa sang it: Click here
  • Video #1... "Little Annie Rooney".. (Jamming with or inspired by Theresa)   Click here
  • Video #2... "Little Annie Rooney".. ( same as above but more mellow )   Click here

This project illuminates the evolutionary missing link between our very earliest folk, Broadway, Circus, Appalachian and Minstrel music to the wonderful music of Rogers and Hammerstein II ( R&H ) that would soon emerge from Theresa's influence ... her paradigm shift.

Thankfully there is still a trace of Theresa's artistry today. .... it's Broadway, especially the R&H shows. In case you're not familiar with the magic of Rogers and Hammerstein II or would like a good review of their wonderful works, Accuradio is a wonderful free resource. (24/7) Click Accuradio, select Broadway, then select Rodgers & Hammerstein II. You may be amazed at the amount of very artful music & poetry they produced. Click here

I believe R&H, Theresa Vaughn and the very earliest Broadway shows all reflect Shakespeare. In 1750 there was one only one Broadway theater
... it was all Shakespeare!

Hopefully this project will inspire a beautiful, cultural/musical Renaissance to blossom everywhere. This is important.. especially these days. "Culture" and too many of us are now deficient in these eight essential cultural ingredients:

      Beauty, Warmth, Poetry, Love, Tradition, Sweetness, Magic/Sparkle, and Romance.

I believe this project can help bring us to a healthy balanced new Renaissance ... culture and music. We all need culture we can actually love and agree on again.
To get there we all need to learn a bit.... and enjoy a paradigm shift to more perspective and understanding. If not we'll remain unglued and fragmented. I believe it's very important to heal the severe cultural polarization/fragmentation now well underway. Theresa's music and influence were healing, integrative. I believe the cultural effect of her artistry and music helped us recover from the Civil war. This project may lead us to such a wonderful Renaissance. Culture does count ... it's very fundamental .. effects EVERYTHING. It's like good air and water.

From my research, it seems American culture reached a very beautiful hi-peak between 1880 and 1895. Rodgers and Hammerstein II's music of today may be the last remaining trace of that earlier very special time. Theresa Vaughn's time and her cultural influence is an ideal starting point for a new Renaissance to emerge from. She's a wonderful Muse for us. 1880-1895 is a good Renaissance restore point for a good cultural reset/reboot.


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Len's Books and Banjos for Sale:

* "Silver Ghost Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* "Golden Age Gallery" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica images: Click here

* Exact 1880 Buckbee banjo replicas (silver-plated and gold-plated) models
      now available for sale
  1.    "Silver Ghost" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully silver-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo"book.
          Signed case, replica Buckbee banjo, silver-plated wrench key
          and teaching video included.
                                            $ 3,000
  2.    "Golden Age" 1880 Buckbee banjo replica, fully gold-plated.
          "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" book.
          Signed case, replica gold-plated Buckbee banjo wrench key
         nbsp; and teaching video included.                                      
                                            $ 3,500


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* Len's Theresa Vaughn Books and her Broadway Show Scripts.
     Preview and purchase books from eBay and Amazon below:

  1. "Miss Theresa Vaughn"
  2. "Theresa Vaughn, the Broadway years"
  3. "Theresa Vaughn and the Buckbee banjo" (combined book 1 and book 2 above)
  4. "1492 Up to Date or Very Near It"
  5. "Little Christopher (Columbus)"

For more information please email:

"In the loud, tawdry, throwaway culture of modern television, we need stories of a quieter kind, a longer-lasting kind, a kind of character.  And communities have stories. Without a story, who are we?  Destroy the past, abuse the past, turn your backs on the past and you're turning your backs on and destroying all we have."

- David McCullough